Section 1: An Outline of the ProblemM

1. Sanity-a protean concept



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A millionaire notable for his eccentricity had an older and better balanced brother

who, on numerous fitting occasions, exercised strong persuasion to bring him under

psychiatric care. On receiving word that this wiser brother had been deserted

immediately after the nuptial night by a famous lady of the theatre (on whom he had

just settled a large fortune) and that the bride, furthermore, had, during the brief

pseudoconnubial episode, remained stubbornly encased in tights, the younger hastened

to dispatch this succinct and unanswerable telegram:


This, at any rate, is the story. I do not offer to answer for its authenticity. It may,

however, be taken not precisely as an example but at least as a somewhat flippant and

arresting commentary on the confusion which still exists concerning sanity. Although

most patients suffering from one of the classified types of mental disorder are promptly

recognized by the psychiatrist, many of them being even to the layman plainly deranged,

there remains a large body of people who, everyone will admit, are by no means adapted

for normal life in the community and who, yet, have no official standing in the ranks of

the insane. The word insane, of course, is not a medical term. It is employed here

because to many people it conveys a more practical meaning than the medical term

psychotic. Although the medical term with its greater vagueness presents a fairer idea of

the present conception of severe mental disorder, the legal term better implies the

criteria by which the personalities under discussion are judged in the courts.

Many of these people, legally judged as competent, are more dangerous to

themselves and to others than are some patients whose psychiatric disability will

necessitate their spending their entire lives in the state hospital. Though certified

automatically as sane by the verbal definitions of law and of medicine, their behavior

demonstrates an irrationality and incompetence that are gross and obvious.


These people to whom I mean to call specific attention are not the borderline

cases in whom the characteristics of some familiar mental dis4


order are only partially developed and the picture as a whole is still questionable. Many

such cases exist, of course, and they are sometimes puzzling even to the experienced

psychiatrist. Certain people, as everyone knows, may for many years show to a certain

degree the reactions of schizophrenia (dementia praecox) of manic-depressive

psychosis, or a paranoia without being sufficiently disabled or so generally irrational as

to be recognized as psychotic. Many patients suffering from incipient disorders of this

sort or from dementia paralytica, cerebral arteriosclerosis, and other organic conditions

pass through a preliminary phase during which their thought and behavior are to a

certain degree characteristic of the psychosis, while for the time being they remain able

to function satisfactorily in the community.

Some people in the early stage of these familiar clinical disorders behave, on the

whole, with what is regarded as mental competency, while showing, from time to time,

symptoms typical of the psychosis toward which they are progressing. After the

disability has at last become openly manifest, enough episodes of deviated conduct can

often be noted in retrospect to make the observer wonder why the subject was not long

ago recognized as psychotic. It would, however, sometimes be not only difficult but

unfair to pronounce a person totally disabled while most of his conduct remains

acceptable. Do we not, as a matter of fact, have to admit that all of us behave at times

with something short of complete rationality and good judgment?


I recall a highly respected businessman who, after years of outstanding

commercial success, began to send telegrams to the White House ordering the President

to dispatch the Atlantic Fleet to Madagascar and to execute Roman Catholics. There

was at this time no question, of course, about his disability. A careful study revealed

that for several years he had occasionally made fantastic statements, displayed

extraordinary behavior (for instance, once putting the lighted end of a cigar to his

stenographer's neck by way of greeting), and squandered thousands of dollars buying up

stamp collections, worthless atticfuls of old furniture, and sets of encyclopedias by the

dozen. None of these purchases had he put to any particular use. When finally

discovered to be incompetent from illness, an investigation of his status showed that he

had thrown away the better part of a million dollars. For months he had been

maintaining 138 bird dogs scattered over the countryside, forty-two horses, and

fourteen women, to none of whom he resorted for the several types of pleasure in

which such dependents sometimes play a part.

Aside from persons in the early stages of progressive illness, one finds


throughout the nation, and probably over the world, a horde of citizens who stoutly

maintain beliefs regarded as absurd and contrary to fact by society as a whole. Often

these people indulge in conduct that to others seems unquestionably irrational.

For example, the daily newspapers continue to report current gatherings in many

states where hundreds of people handle poisonous snakes, earnestly insisting that they

are carrying out God's will.* Death from snakebite among these zealous worshippers

does not apparently dampen their ardor. Small children, too young to arrive

spontaneously at similar conclusions concerning the relationships between faith and

venom, are not spared by their parents this intimate contact with the rattler and the


It is, perhaps, not remarkable that prophets continually predict the end of the

world, giving precise and authoritative details of what so far has proved no less fanciful

than the delusions of patients confined in psychiatric hospitals. That scores and

sometimes hundred or even thousands of followers accept these prophecies might give

the thoughtful more cause to wonder. Newspaper clippings and magazine articles

before the writer at this moment describe numerous examples of such behavior.

In a small Georgia town twenty earnest disciples sit up with a pious lady who has

convinced them that midnight will bring the millenium. An elderly clergyman in

California, whose more numerous followers are likewise disappointed when the

designated moment passes uneventfully, explains that there is no fault with his divine

vision but only some minor error of calculation which arose from differences between

the Biblical and the modern calendars. During the last century an even more vehement

leader had thousands of people, in New England and in other states, out on the hillsides

expecting to be caught up to glory as dawn broke. Indeed, conviction was so great that

at sunrise many leaped from cliffs, roofs, and silos, one zealot having tied turkey wings

to his arms the better to provide for flight. Those who had hoped to ascend found

gravity unchanged, the earth still solid, and the inevitable contact jarring. 268,283

Few, if any, who prophesy on the grounds of mystic insight or special revelation

come to conclusions more extraordinary than those reached by some who profess, and

often firmly believe, they are working within the methods of science. A notable

example is furnished by Wilhelm Reich, who is listed in American Men of Science and

whose earlier work in psychopathology

* _And these signs shall follow them that believe; in my name they shall cast out devils; they shall speak

with new tongues; they shall . . . take up serpents and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt

them"-[Mark 16:17-18].


is regarded by many as valuable.28 Textbooks of high scientific standing still refer to his

discoveries in this field.79,129,188

It is indeed startling when such a person as this announces the discovery of

"orgone," a substance which, it is claimed, has much to do with sexual orgasm (as well

as the blueness of the sky) and which can be accumulated in boxes lined with metal.

Those who sit within the boxes are said to benefit in many marvelous ways. According

to the Journal of the American Medical Association, the accumulation of this (to others)

nonexistent material is by Reich and his followers promoted as a method for curing

cancer.59 A report of the Council of the American Medical Association lists the orgone

accumulator with various quack nostrums under "Frauds and Fables." The presence of

any such material as "orgone" impresses the physician as no less imaginary than its

alleged therapeutic effects. The nature of such conclusions and the methods of arriving

at them are scarcely more astonishing than the credulity of highly educated and

intellectual people who are reported to give them earnest consideration.28

During the 1940's, crowds estimated as containing twenty-five thousand or more

persons, some of them having travelled halfway across the United States, stood in the

rain night after night to watch a 9-year-old boy in New York City who claimed to have

seen a vision which he described as "an angel's head with butterfly wings."

A clergyman of the Church of England during World War II confirmed as a

supernatural omen of good the reported appearance of a luminous cross in the sky near

Ipswich. In our own generation men of profound learning have expressed literal belief

in witchcraft and approved the efforts of those who, following the Biblical injunction,

put thousands to death for this activity.300

These headlines from a daily newspaper deserve consideration:




My interest in this news does not indicate that I hold it to be impossible for a

person with a serious psychiatric disorder sometimes to write good poetry or to achieve

other worthwhile attainments.

The headlines nevertheless reflect a bewildering conflict of evaluation in which

some of the paradoxical elements strongly suggest absurdity. They also bring to mind

what sometimes seems to be a rapt predilection of small but influential cults of

intellectuals or esthetes for what is generally regarded as perverse, dispirited, or

distastefully unintelligible.5, 36,114, 253 The award of a Nobel Prize in literature to Andre

Gide, who in his work fervently


and openly insists that pederasty is the superior and preferable way of life for adolescent

boys, furnishes a memorable example of such judgments.94, 198 Renowned critics and

some professors in our best universities179, 282 reverently acclaim as the superlative

expression of genius James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake, a 628-page collection of erudite

gibberish indistinguishable to most people from the familiar word salad produced by

hebephrenic patients on the back wards of any state hopsital.

Let us illustrate briefly with the initial page from this remarkable volume:154

Riverrun, past Eve and Adarn's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a

commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.

Sir Tristram, violer d'amores, fr'over the short sea, had passencore rearrived from

North Armorica on this side the scraggy isthmus of Europe Minor to wielderfight his

penisolate war: nor had topsawyer's rocks by the stream Oconee exaggerated themselse to

Laurens County's gorgios while they went doublin their mumper all the time: nor avoice

from afire bellowsed mishe mishe to tauftauf thuartpeatrick: not yet, though venissoon

after, had a kidscad buttened a bland old isaac: not yet, though all's fair in vanessy, were

sosie sesthers wroth with twone nathandjoe. Rot a peck of pa's malt had Jhem or Shen

brewed by arclight and rory end to the regginbrow was to be seen ringsome on the


The fall


awnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnukl) of a once wallstrait oldparr is retaled early in bed

and later on life down through all christian minstrelsy. The great fall of the offwall

entailed at such short notice the pftjschute of Finnegan, erse solid man, that the

humptyhillhead of humself prumptly sends an unquiring one well to the west in quest of

his tumptytumtoes: and their upturnpikepointandplace is at the knock out in the park

where oranges have been laid to rust upon the green since devlinsfirst loved livvy.

The adventurous reader will, I promise, find any of the other 627 pages equally

illuminating. It is not for me to say dogmatically that Finnegan's Wake is a volume

devoid of meaning. Nor could I with certainty make such a pronouncement about the

chaotic verbal productions of the patient on the back ward of an old time state hospital.

Ezra Pound's continued eminence as a poet and the almost worshipful

admiration with which some scholars acclaim Finnegan's Wake are likely to evoke

wonder from the man of ordinary tastes and reactions if he gives these matters serious


Graduates of our universities and successful businessmen join others to

contribute testimonials announcing the prevention of hydrophobia and the healing of

cancer, diphtheria, tuberculosis, wens, and broken legs, as well


as the renting of rooms and the raising of salaries, by groups who reportedly work

through "the formless, omnipresent God-substance" and by other metaphysical

methods. One group publishes several magazines which are eagerly read in almost every

town in the United States. Nearly two hundred centers are listed where "prosperity

bank drills" and respiratory rituals are advocated. Leaders solemnly write, "the physical

body radiates an energy that can at times be seen as a light or aura surrounding the

physical, especially about the heads of those who think much about Spirit."81

The following are typical testimonial letters, and these are but three among many


I wrote to you somewhat over a week ago asking for your prayers. My trouble was

appendicitis, and it ssemed that an operation was unavoidable. However, I had faith in the

indwelling, healing Christ and decided to get in touch with you. Well, as you might expect,

the healing that has taken place borders on the so-called miraculous. I spent an hour each

day alone with God, and I claimed my rightful inheritance as a child of God. Naturally the

adverse condition had to disappear with the advent of the powerful flow of Christ-Life

consciously directed towards this illness.


You will be interested to know that just about the time when my prosperity-bank

period was up I went to work in a new position, which not only pays a substantially higher

salary but . . . [etc.]. I should probably not have had sufficient faith and courage to trust

Him had it not been for the Truth literature.


Thank you for your beautiful and effective ministry. I have had five big

demonstrations of prosperity since I had this particular prosperity bank. Last week

brought final settlement of a debt owed me for about seven years.

Not a few citizens of our country read, apparently with conviction, material such

as that published by the director of the Institute of Mental Physics, who is announced as

the reincarnation of a Tibetan Lama. This leader reports, furthermore, that he has

witnessed an eastern sage grow an orange tree from his palm and, on another occasion,

die and rise in a new body, leaving the old one behind. Many other equally improbable

feats of thaumaturgy are described in eye-witness accounts.70

The casual observer has been known to dismiss what many call superstition as the

fruit of ignorance. Nevertheless, beliefs and practices of this sort are far from rare

among the most learned in all generations. A fairly recent ambassador to the United

States, generally recognized as a distinguished


scholar, died (according to the press) under the care of a practitioner of Christian


Even a doctor of medicine has written a book in which he attests to the cure of

acute inflammatory diseases and other disorders by similar methods. But let him speak


At another time I examined a girl upon whom I had operated for recurrent mastoiditis.

At the time of my examination she was showing definite signs of another attack. . . .

Absent treatments stopped her trouble in two days. To one who had never seen anything

of the kind before, the rapidity with which the inflammation disappeared would have

seemed almost a piece of magic.


A third case is that of a woman who carried a bad heart for years. About a year ago she

experienced an acute attack accompanied by pain, nausea, and bloating caused by gas. Her

daughter telephoned to a practitioner of spiritual healing and explained the trouble to her. The

reply was that an immediate treatment would be given. In ten minutes the trouble was gone,

and there has been no serious recurrence since.

The more one considers such convictions and the sort of people who hold them,

the more impressive becomes the old saying attributed 301 to Artemus Ward and

indicating that our troubles arise not so much from ignorance as from knowing so much

that is not so. Hundreds of other examples like those mentioned are available to

demonstrate that many persons of high ability and superior education sincerely cherish

beliefs which seem to have little more real support from fact or reason than the ordinary

textbook delusion. Such beliefs are held as persistently by respected persons and

influential groups, despite evidence to the contrary, as by psychotic patients who are

segregated in hospitals.

Let it be understood that I am not advancing an opinion that those who are

persuaded by prophets that the world will end next Thursday or that those who appeal

to faith healers to protect a child from the effects of meningitis should be pronounced

as clinically psychotic and forcibly committed to hospitals. Despite the similarity

between the way such beliefs are adopted and the way a schizoid or paranoid patient

arrives at his delusions, and despite the similar lack of evidence for considering either

true, people such as those now under discussion are usually capable of leading useful

lives in harmony with the community and sometimes of benefit to society. Few things,

in my opinion, are more basic than the necessity for men to allow each other freedom to

believe or not to believe, however sacred, or however false, different creeds may be held

by different groups.

Convictions that the world is flat, that one must not begin a job on


Friday, or that Mr. Arthur Bell of Mankind United193 is omnipotent are apparently held

by some in reverent identity with the deepest religious attitudes of which they are

capable. In this basic sense, each man's religion, as contrasted with the dogma or

illusion in which he may frame it, his basic attitude and emotional response to whatever

meaning and purpose he has been able to find in his living, deserves respect and

consideration. The Methodist, the Mormon, and the Catholic, as well as the man who

cannot accept any literal creed as a final statement of these issues, can honor and value,

in a fundamentally religious sense, the valid reverence and the ultimate subjective aims

of a good Mohammedan. This is possible without the ability to share his pleasant

convictions about the likelihood of houris in paradise


Next: Section 1: An Outline of the Problem, 2. Traditions that obscure our subject


Energy Enhancement          Enlightened Texts         Psychopath           The Mask Of Sanity



Section 1


  • Psychopath Hervey Cleckley THE MASK OF SANITY, Section 1: An Outline of the Problem, 1. Sanity-a protean concept
    Psychopath Hervey Cleckley THE MASK OF SANITY, Section 1: An Outline of the Problem, 1. Sanity-a protean concept, A millionaire notable for his eccentricity had an older and better balanced brother who, on numerous fitting occasions, exercised strong persuasion to bring him under psychiatric care. On receiving word that this wiser brother had been deserted immediately after the nuptial night by a famous lady of the theatre (on whom he had just settled a large fortune) and that the bride, furthermore, had, during the brief pseudoconnubial episode, remained stubbornly encased in tights, the younger hastened to dispatch this succinct and unanswerable telegram at

  • Psychopath Hervey Cleckley THE MASK OF SANITY, Section 1: An Outline of the Problem, 2. Traditions that obscure our subject
    Psychopath Hervey Cleckley THE MASK OF SANITY, Section 1: An Outline of the Problem, 2. Traditions that obscure our subject, Raising general questions about personality disorder, we have briefly considered (1) persons suffering from illnesses that progress to major mental disability and (2) the numerous citizens of our nation, many of them able and well educated, who hold beliefs generally regarded as unsupported by evidence and considered by many as irrational or even fantastic. Aside from these groups and aside from all types of patients recognized as psychotic, there remains for our consideration a large body of people who are incapable of leading normal lives and whose behavior causes great distress in every community at

  • Psychopath Hervey Cleckley THE MASK OF SANITY, Section 1: An Outline of the Problem, 3. Not as single spies but in battalions
    Psychopath Hervey Cleckley THE MASK OF SANITY, Section 1: An Outline of the Problem, 3. Not as single spies but in battalions, In attempt to determine the incidence of this disorder in the population as a whole is opposed by serious difficulties. The vagueness of officially accepted criteria for diagnosis and the extreme variation of degree in such maladjustment constitute primary obstacles. Statistics from most psychiatric hospitals are necessarily misleading, since the psychopath is not technically eligible for admission and only those who behave in such an extremely abnormal manner as to appear orthodoxly psychotic (that is to say, as suffering from another and very different disorder) appear in the records. If the traditional legal and medical rules were regularly followed, statistics from state hospitals and from the federal psychiatric institutions would show no psychopaths at all. Let it also be noted that these institutions contain a vast majority of the patients hospitalized in the United States for mental disorder. Most statistical studies, therefore, cannot be regarded as even remotely suggesting the prevalence of this disability in the population at

  • Psychopath Hervey Cleckley THE MASK OF SANITY, Section 1: An Outline of the Problem, 4. Method of presentation
    Psychopath Hervey Cleckley THE MASK OF SANITY, Section 1: An Outline of the Problem, 4. Method of presentation, Before attempting to define or describe the psychopath (antisocial personality), to contrast him with other types of psychiatric patients, or to make any attempt to explain him, I would like to present some specimens of the group for consideration. This procedure will be in accord with the principles of science in method at least, since, as Karl Pearson pointed out in The Grammar of Science, this method always consists of three steps: 119 1. The observation and recording of facts 2. The grouping of these facts with proper correlation and with proper distinction from other facts 3. The effort to devise some summarizing or, if possible, explanatory statement which will enable one to grasp conveniently their significance at





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